Individual Educational Plan (IEPs)

What is an Individual Education Plan?

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a written document prepared for a named student. Specifies the learning goals that are to be achieved by the student over a set period of time and the teaching strategies, resources and supports necessary to achieve those goals.

An IEP may usefully be thought of as a product. However, there is also a process involved in developing the plan and it is the quality of this process that determines the quality and effectiveness of the Plan. The Individual Education Plan is developed through a collaborative process involving the school, parents, the student (where appropriate) and other relevant personnel or agencies. It refers to the adapted or modified aspects of the educational programme and focuses on priority learning needs, although the student may also have other learning needs that will not require the same intensive degree of planning and monitoring.

Not every aspect of the curriculum and school life needs to be modified for every student with special educational needs – only those areas of identified need arising from assessment should be covered. The amount of adaptation and support will vary according to the individual learning needs of each student. Some students with more complex needs may require significant educational modifications.

Why have an IEP?

Planning for individual learning needs has been a feature of special educational provision for some time. However, this approach was often fragmented and, to date was not standard practice in all schools. The requirement to develop formalised IEPs is an essential component of the EPSEN Act, 2004.


  • Allows the student to progress at a level commensurate with ability
  • Involves collaboration between all partners
  • Focuses teaching strategies
  • Ensures records are kept

IEP Principles

The IEP is a working document and should be useful, available and comprehensible to all those dealing directly with the student. It needs to be considered in the context of home, school and classroom organisation.

Effective individual education plans have key characteristics.

These are:

  • Individualised and child-centred
  • Inclusive
  • Holistic
  • Collaborative
  • Accessible

Sources of information

Home, school and community are important sources of information about the child with special educational needs. The child concerned is likely also to have contact with a number of professionals who will have assessed her/his strengths and needs formally and/or informally. Figure 1 illustrates possible sources of information pertinent to the IEP process.


Provide a perspective on their children that is different from that of the professionals involved with the child. In the case of the pre-school child, parents are the source of vital information about the child’s developmental history. Parents can often provide valuable information about the child’s medical history/requirements, educational history, strengths and gifts and emotional and social needs.


Students themselves, particularly if older, can be an important source of information about, for example, their learning style, interests, what they like to learn about, what interferes with learning for them and what helps them learn.


The child’s class teacher and former teachers are a central source of information about the child’s strengths/needs, interests, specific difficulties across curricular areas as well as the programmes and strategies that have been successfully implemented with the child. Teachers can provide details about educational interventions; they can also provide comparative information/data which demonstrate a child’s performance relative to other children of the same age/class. Information from school records and school personnel may also provide a profile of a child’s social and emotional development.

Other Professionals:

The range of professionals consulted in relation to a child’s educational programme may vary as appropriate. The information provided by such professionals may include: information about the child’s medical needs, physical or sensory development, cognitive functioning, emotional and/or behavioural development, speech and language, communication, hearing and/or vision. Information gathered from these professionals can help determine the child’s strengths and needs across a range of functioning.

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